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The Chevrolet Silverado 3500 has long been the monster hauler in the Silverado lineup. Serving as the go-to vehicle for towing and hauling huge loads across America, a 3500 "dually" is a truck that many people consider essential for tugging a Boston Whaler or the family's fifth-wheel Coachmen.
Although Chevrolet has used the "Silverado" name as a trim level on its old C/K pickup, it didn't decide to make it an official full-size truck name until 1999. Even then, it wasn't applied to the 3500 until Chevy's heavy-duty pickup trucks were completely redesigned a couple of years later. (Further information about the current-generation 3500, the 3500HD, is available here.)
While the Silverado 3500 could have benefited from better interior materials, its durability and tremendous hauling and towing abilities have kept generations of Chevy loyalists coming back to the gold bowtie. For shoppers interested in a used heavy-duty pickup that can take on just about any towing or hauling task, the Chevy Silverado 3500 is a solid choice.
Most Recent Chevrolet Silverado 3500
The Chevrolet Silverado 3500 was sold from 2001-'06 and lived for one final year in 2007 as the "3500 Classic." These trucks came in standard, LS and LT trim levels. Changes to this truck were minimal during its run. There were updates made to exterior styling and the interior for 2003, while a Work Truck trim was added for 2004. Further exterior tweaks were made for 2005. For 2006, there were three variations of the LT trim level. The 3500 was initially available only with dual rear wheels until the 2004 model year, when a regular rear axle version debuted.
The standard engine on the Chevy Silverado 3500 was a 6.0-liter V8 that made 300 horsepower and 360 pound-feet of torque. There were two optional engines: an 8.1-liter gasoline V8 producing 340 hp and 455 lb-ft of torque and a 6.6-liter turbodiesel producing 300 hp and 520 lb-ft. This diesel was upgraded in 2006 for more power and refinement and fewer emissions. It was rated at 360 hp and a whopping 650 lb-ft of torque. These engines carried over for the Classic. A five-speed manual transmission was standard with the 6.0-liter V8, with a four-speed automatic being optional. The 8.1-liter V8 and the diesel engines came with either a six-speed manual or five-speed automatic. (It became a six-speed for 2006.)
As is the case with the current 3500HD, we were always impressed by this generation's powerful engine lineup and substantial towing and hauling abilities. It was a reasonably comfortable truck for everyday use, but don't expect the plush ride of its light-duty siblings. Any of the three available engines will provide swift acceleration (for a huge truck) and ample towing power, but the diesel V8 is probably the best choice for those who tow heavy loads -- especially if it's the updated version. Our principal beef with the Silverado 3500 concerned the shoddy interior design, materials and build quality. Chevy improved it gradually during its lifespan, but it was never quite up to snuff.
Past Chevrolet Silverado 3500 models
The previous-generation Chevrolet heavy-duty pickups ran from 1988-2000 and were simply known by their number nomenclature -- 2500 (3/4-ton) and 3500 (1-ton). In keeping with tradition, one could choose either rear-wheel drive (indicated by a "C", e.g. "C3500") or four-wheel drive (indicated by a "K"). Trim levels for these C/K3500 trucks include the base Cheyenne and top-line Silverado, which later changed to base and LS for 1999. Strengths of these trucks include strong, durable powertrains, while weaknesses center on sketchy build quality and materials within the cabin.